Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 163–187 | Cite as

‘There’s a letter called ef’ on Challenges and Repair in Interpreter-Mediated Tests of Cognitive Functioning in Dementia Evaluations: A Case Study

  • Charlotta Plejert
  • Eleonor Antelius
  • Maziar Yazdanpanah
  • T. Rune Nielsen


In the Scandinavian countries Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, the number of first generation migrants reaching an old age, who will be in need of age-related health-care, is rapidly increasing. This situation poses new demands on health-care facilities, such as memory clinics, where patients with memory problems and other dementia symptoms are referred for examination and evaluation. Very many elderly people with a foreign background require the assistance of an interpreter in their encounter with health-care facilities. The use of, and work by an interpreter is crucial in facilitating a smooth assessment. However, interpreters, clinicians, as well as patients and their companions, may be faced with many challenges during the evaluation procedure. The aim of this case-study is to highlight some of the challenges that occur in relation to a specific activity within the dementia evaluation, namely the test of cognitive functioning. Special attention will be paid to the phenomenon ‘repair’, i.e., participants’ joint attempts to solve upcoming difficulties during the course of interaction. Results show that sources of trouble may be related to the lack of cultural, linguistic, and educational adaptation of the test to the patient, and to interpreter and clinician practises. Findings will be discussed in terms of test-validity, clinician and interpreter training, and the institutional goals and constraints of the dementia evaluation. The methodology Conversation Analysis has been used to conduct a highly detailed analysis of participants’ practices and actions during the administration of the test.


Culturally and linguistically diverse patients Conversation analysis Dementia Evaluation Interpreting Repair 



The present study was supported by The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (RJ), grant no. M10-0187:1.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charlotta Plejert
    • 1
  • Eleonor Antelius
    • 1
  • Maziar Yazdanpanah
    • 2
  • T. Rune Nielsen
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Dementia Research, Department of Social and Welfare StudiesLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  2. 2.Department of Culture and CommunicationLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  3. 3.Memory Disorders Research Group, Neuroscience CentreCopenhagen University Hospital RigshospitaletCopenhagenDenmark

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